According to physicsclassroom.com inertia is: “the resistance an object has to a change in its state of motion.” In other words, an object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion as long as it is not acted upon by an external force such as gravity or friction. There is a life analogue to the physics principle of inertia which I suspect is something you know intuitively. When a person’s life is lacking purpose it’s likely to be stuck in neutral, in a state of rest. Conversely, a purposeful life is necessarily moving forward. Is your life moving forward in a positive direction, or are you stuck in a state of rest?
Apathy and a life at rest
Up until the time I graduated high school I rarely did anything meaningful with my time. I did almost no schoolwork, I participated in no extracurricular activities, and basically wasted most of my time. I wasn’t doing anything to move my life forward or prepare for life after graduating. I had no sense of purpose or direction and my life was completely static and, much like a physical object in a state of rest, it wanted to remain in that state because, while not feeling good, it felt safe and familiar. I knew this wasn’t good and I certainly wasn’t happy with the way things were but I was doing nothing to change it.
Volition and a life in motion
An object at rest requires a force to set it in motion. The human will is the force that animates your life. External factors may provide motivation or otherwise influence your decision to make a move, but the decision whether to act or not is ultimately yours. If you want to get out of neutral and get your life moving forward, it’s really up to you.
After a semester of not going to school post high school graduation and deciding that pizza delivery wasn’t a viable career choice I made the decision to enroll in a couple of classes at a local university. While I still hadn’t decided what I really wanted to do, I knew doing nothing was a road to nowhere so, it was a start. I wasn’t compelled to go to school as was the case for high school. This was completely my choice and that small decision was a baby step in a positive direction.
Kill the closest snake
When my friend Dan and I talk about how easy it is to feel overwhelmed while pursuing our goals, especially when first getting started, he likes to say: “kill the closest snake”. In other words, do the the most immediate, pressing thing that’s keeping you from moving forward. If your goals are big enough it can sometimes feel like they’re too big. But when you break the steps required to achieve them down into small, manageable tasks it suddenly doesn’t feel so overwhelming. Checking a number of small things off of your list feels great and is a good way to build momentum.
Fight the friction
While force isn’t required to keep an object in motion, a force is required to stop it once it’s in motion. There will inevitably be forces at work that will interfere with your life inertia. It’s your job to fight the friction and stay focused on the bigger picture. Standing still is only marginally better than going backwards so stay strong and keep moving.
Discover a purpose and make the change
Feeling like your life has no purpose and you’re just stuck on stop is one of the worst places to be. I also know that if this describes where you are it doesn’t have to stay that way. At one time my life was stationary and now it’s in motion. Envisioning the future you want and devising a plan on how to get there are essential components of a meaningful, purposeful life. It won’t always be fun and can sometimes be frightening but I can say without question that it will be worth it.